Preview: Emirates Cup 2009
Good morning Gooners. I only have one preview on the weekend`s festivities for you all as my girlfriend has me going to the theatre Saturday night so I won`t have time to type one up for match day two. I figure since I didn`t even ask her if she wanted to go either days of the Emirates Cup, I better get myself down to the Phantom of the Opera Saturday night without a single complaint. It`s her first time in London, and she has been on my last nerve this week doing all the tourism nonsense in Westminster and Waterloo. For all I`ve put up with, I reckon I deserve a medal, a pat on the back, or at least two afternoons by myself enjoying the Arsenal. I guess since it`s her first time in the city, I should give her a break because everyone`s first time is supposed to be special, right?
Anyways, enough about my troubles, onto the weekend`s football! There has been a French, Scottish, and Spanish invasion of N5. (Especially these people decked in blue, who, I`ve been told, are actually speaking English, much to my disbelief. I sure can`t understand them ;) ) The teams invited don`t have the same prestigious appeal as Juventus and Real Madrid did last year, but nevertheless, I`m more excited about this year`s Cup than last years for several reasons. This year`s edition has to be the biggest test for the Arsenal squad since its conception three years ago. This is largely due to the fact we are not participating in the Amsterdam Tournament the following weekend.
There are so many questions looming around Ashburton Grove before the trip to Everton on the 15th. Hopefully some of these will be partly answered by Sunday night. How will the Gallas, Vermaelen partnership look against top class opposition? Will Rosicky and Eduardo get much needed minutes in preparation for their full comebacks? How will we lineup for most of our games next season? Will Arsene continue with a 4-5-1/4-3-3 or will he revert back to his favoured 4-4-2? All these questions and many more will be vital in determining how Arsenal performs next season. There is so much promise in this squad, yet so many undecided factors will affect how next season goes for Arsene`s 'not so young` Guns.
Wenger had this to say on the tournament: "I believe first of all it`s always the first gathering with our fans," the manager explained to Arsenal.com. "I personally enjoy the two days immensely and it`s a good opportunity to see how far we are in our preparation and how fit our players are. I also enjoy it because it`s always enjoyable games in a good climate without pressure. It`s the final firework of the preparation with a relaxed atmosphere, without too much pressure."
Arsene also had kind words to say about the Scottish fans: "We expect the Scots to come down. You know when they come to England they are always fired up. It could be a different style this year but it could be even more interesting."
The Professor then went on to talk about all our visitors: "It`s interesting because PSG have a good team, Rangers I know a little bit less because I didn`t see them a lot last year and Atletico Madrid had a good side last season going forward. Atletico were very impressive last year with Forlan and Aguero in attack. It looks to be an offensive festival this year."
Rangers manager, Walter Smith, praised Arsene`s Wenger management tactics: 'If you take into account the things Arsene has won, he has achieved a lot and handled his club very well financially,' Smith told Rangers News. "When you consider they were building a new stadium and their outgoings were restricted by that, they have done very well. They haven't had the luxury of being able to spend the same amounts of money the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool have spent. Arsene has done a fantastic job there to keep his team in touch with those other three and to keep producing a high level of football."
If there is a tie on points at the top of the group on Sunday, the winner will be decided by who has the most shots on target. The Club had a contest and fans sent in suggestions about how to decide the tournament, and after many ideas being submitted a panel, including Arsene, decided shots on target would be best because it would encourage attacking play. Here is what the club had to say about some of the suggestions:
"The suggestions for the 'deciding rule` ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. More conventional ideas such as fastest goal, corners won and a penalty shoot-out were suggested. While entries like a crossbar challenge, a coin toss and even a rock/paper/scissors clash between the managers were also discussed."
Personally I`d like to see the rock/paper/scissors idea. I can hear it now: 'Oooohh it's all over! Wenger pulled a rabbit out the hat with paper beating rock. And Arsenal win the cup". It will go down in history with other famous commentaries like "It`s up for grabs now", "Adams charging through the midfield", and "Henryyy. What a goal! Inspiration."
Arsenal Team News
Usually Arsenal`s squad players and a couple of starters play on Saturday, and three more starters come on as substitutions. Then on Sunday , we get a glimpse at Arsene`s master plan. I`ll bet a fiver that Denilson plays substantial minutes both days. As Stewart Robson loves to point out in all our preseason broadcasts, the Brazilian is an ever-present component of any Arsenal team nowadays.
Just like a non-existent Eduardo injury was disproved, an injury to Tomas Rosicky has been reported and corrected in the space of 12 hours on Thursday as well. Both will play a part in the Emirates Cup. Gael Clichy will get a run out as well. Vermaelen and Traore picked up slight injuries against Hannover but are listed as probable. Vermaelen, in particular, should play as he didn`t want to come off the field Wednesday but was taken off anyways as a precaution.
As I write this Eboue is still an Arsenal player because his deal to the Viola has stalled it seems. We might see him this weekend, but I don't expect to because Arsene probably won't want to risk him. I doubt we'll see him again until a possible Play Off match against Fiorentina in the Champions League. We`re bound to play a big name and you all know it. Samir Nasri is out of course with a broken leg, and Carlos Vela has only just returned from the Americas so he won`t play either. Walcott and Gibbs have only had four days of training so they too will not be on the pitch. Diaby has suffered a knee strain and is out for the tournament. Arsene said the gangly Frenchman will be back for Valencia.
Arsenal Player to Watch: Everyone!
Like I said in the intro, there are so many questions all over the pitch for Arsenal, and I cannot bring myself to pinpoint one to watch. I`m sure you`ll do just fine without my crap advice on who`s important for us.
PSG Player to Watch: Mamadou Sakho
I don`t know many PSG players, and unless you`re a defensive mid enthusiast, I doubt anyone will find much joy in closely watching Makelele. So why not watch 'Marmaduke` Sakho. We have been closely linked with him for over a year now, but it has only been smoke so far. He was the captain at PSG at the young age of 19, so he`s obviously talented. He`ll need to be at his best to stop Forlan, Aguero, Ashavin, and van Persie.
Atletico Madrid Player to Watch: Sergio Aguero
This is a no doubt. Aguero is one of the top ten talents in football at the moment. He`s not a top ten player yet, but his pure talent certainly puts butts in seats. I`m excited to see him in person. His partnership with Forlan can cause any defence troubles.
Rangers Player to Watch: Kenny Miller
Kenny is a very talented striker who is enjoying his second stint in the blue half of Glasgow. He was rubbish at Derby, but hey every player was rubbish at that poor club that year. (I still feel sorry for their amazing fans, who had to deal with that dross on display at Pride Park) Miller scored a goal every three games for Rangers last season in the SPL, and his finishing will need to be at its best if Rangers are to lift the cup.
The next match is Arsenal`s last preseason rendezvous and it is on August 8th against Valencia at the Mestalla. Hopefully Villa and Silva are still at the Spanish club so our new defence can be tested even more. Then after an ill placed international break Arsenal opens against Everton at Goodison Park on the 15th.
Well that`s all for me. Enjoy the weekend and all its preseason glory. I, for one, can`t wait to go to the Grove on Saturday. Have a good one.
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